Monday, 17 May 2010
For the theme of Equipment, and being somewhat short of inspiration right now (stuck mojo) I opted to illustrate the tired 'what's in your bag meme'.
Here then is some of the gymcrack I cart round on the regular; my equipment if you like (now you're getting it huh?).
1. Matt Fothergill Leather Bag: A pretty nice bag – I got it for my birthday a few years ago when the last one gave up the ghost. The leather's really nice quality, but a little inflexible perhaps #firstworldproblems. The guy who makes these lives somewhere in Wales and contributes odd confections of cowhide and the vomit-and-gum-camouflaging seat covering of the London Underground to the London Transport museum.
2. Ah, yes, that hackneyed techno artifact, the iPhone (or iTablet nano, as some on-point observers referred to it), currently helping to transform Apple into the monolithic corporation they parodied in that sub-1984 Ridley Scott directed ad everyone wanked over, oh irony of ironies. When I look at my phone, I'm always reminded of Douglas Adams, when he wrote of the disease that wiped out mankind, that was transmitted by a phone, because mine looks like a veritable typhoid mary, its sheer slightly menacing frame never-not caulked in facial grease and smeary fingerprints. Yum! wanna put your face near that?
3. Pens: Yeah, I love pens. Here are two favourites, the Stabilo Sensor, which has a sprung loaded tip and draws like a dream (until it blunts), and iconic Pentel Signpen – President Johnson's favourite (and Time Magazine's product of the year, 1964, apparently). An old boss (who shall remain nameless) used to wax lyrical about its cheque writing properties, which is slightly icky, but in all fairness, it's a great pen to write with.
4. Bog-standard Sony headphones – about £20 from HMV. I always use this to retreat into a cocoon of slight musical superiority wherever I'm freelancing, and shuffle on the Studio iPod is starting to erode my will to live. This is the one with the shorter cable, as you could probably pay out enough of its lengthier variant to lay a path through the Cretan Labyrinth (should you happen to find yourself there). Indeed, it gave rise to that well know affliction 'freelancers' cable' where a knot of the plastic clad wire gets tangled in the castors of your wheel-fixed office chair, leading to all kinds of hi-jinx.
5. Embarrassingly expensive Cutler and Gross sunnies I bought from Oi Polloi in 2006. On the plus side the black frame is really well constructed, and this, coupled with the lenses' nicotine-yellow gradient, has something of Bruce Lee in 'Game of Death' about it. They also don't have any corporate runes crawling over the arms, which is a big plus – logos on a letterhead: ok, on my face? no thanks. The case was shit though, and started coming apart within a week, and even wearing the things is kind of contingent on the notoriously fickle British summertime.
6. Shitty free newspaper (the Metro) which I pick up most mornings on the way to work from the Tube. It's pretty dross really. It used to have competition in the form of TheLondonPaper, and the London Lite, affectionately referred to as The London Shite by many. The last two really were testament to the veracity of the maxim "you get what you pay for" and are not much missed. It's only rival now is the recently free Evening Standard, which is kind of worth it alone for Brian Sewell's searingly camp, waspish art reviews.
7. Annoying entry thing for work, consisting of a card housed in a shell and a plastic fob. Unfortunately the shell casing cracked in my back pocket one day, divorcing fob from card, and I'm now constantly forgetting one or the other, or both, then having to negotiate the bank of pleasant Eastern-European girls on reception.
8. Canon Powershot G10. Nice camera, which I should really learn how to use properly. It certainly looks the part, with its assortment of dials, buttons, knobs etc, but I'll be damned if I know what half of them do.
9. Weird Turkish sweets called Kremini, from a company called ülker. They're cherry flavoured and actually quite pleasant, though somewhat plasticky in texture. One of the pleasures of living in Dalston is the 'vibrant cultural interchange' between East and West here, and I consider these sweets part-and-parcel of that whole thing.
10. I'm usually packing a paperback, and up until just the other day it was K-Pax by Gene Brewer. Pretty good, and unaware that a film had been made of it, I mused that Kevin Spacey would be really good to play the role of the Mentally ill patient who believes himself from the planet K-Pax – then I saw the DVD in Oxfam starring... that very man! I should play the lottery more, or something.
11. Moleskine. Bit wanky, but I like em.
12. Chrome Thermos. Apparently these aren't as good at retaining heat as the old plastic ones with the non-conductive, glass insulating element. On the other hand, they're tougher, and don't make you look like you should also be wearing a compass on a lanyard whilst drinking from it. I originally bought it to save money on coffee at work, but mostly I can't be bothered and just catch an extra 10 minutes in bed.
13. Glasses. Again, somewhat expensive, but again, sans-logo. I bought these from a shop in Covent Garden manned by supremely disinterested staff. In terms of style they quite resemble a pair my granddad owned, and sit somewhere between 'funky' pensioner eyewear and the self-consciously chunk NHS style frames currently to be found on or near a fixie throughout most of East London. Most importantly, they allow me to SEE.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Today I wandered down to the informal array of market stalls that congregate on the stretch of Kingsland Road between The Old Fox pub, and the Dalston Oxfam. I say stalls, but really it mostly consists of a bunch of red faced, snaggle toothed booze-hounds hawking tat off blankets, alongside a couple more legitimate enterprises (burger bar, carpet van).
I don't quite know what the deal is, except that this weekly event coincides with the prior manifestation of assorted piles of bric-a-brac in evenly spaced piles along this stretch of road, presumably dumped legally, which I assume the various chancers pick through to resell off the pavement (I'm guessing not so legally).
Off to one side this week were two old lads, selling stuff off trestle tables by a battered white van, consisting mainly of printed ephemera from the early-to-mid 20th century, such as scrap books, old postcards, magazines and cigarette cards. One of the things I turned up whilst rifling though was a copy of The London Evening Standard from the day of Queen Elizabeth's wedding to Prince Phillip, the two of them looking surprisingly young in spite of the ancient yellowing paper and coarse black ink trumpeting their union.
Something else that caught my eye, and occupied me for the better part of twenty minutes, was a box of old black and white photographs, dating from the era when it was a professional, or rich man's pastime. Amongst them were an array of portraits of individuals unknown (genteel chaps in wooden chairs, bonny lasses in tweed twinsets), presented as portfolio items from professional photographic studios, along with various pictures identified on the back as belonging to the archives of a long defunct London Newspaper's archive, including, oddly enough, more photos of our monarch, smiling demurely at assorted bland looking civic opening ceremonies.
Whilst rooting through these I turned up an image that caught my eye, and turning to one of the vendors – resignedly engaged in the slow process of reloading everything into the van – asked its price. "That one? 50 pee" he said without enthusiasm, returning to the task at hand as the skies muttered of rain. I paid him and hopped on the bendy bus, back to Dalston Junction.
I'm not sure what it's of, exactly. Obviously a horizon at near sunset, with what look to be ruins of a church, or some agricultural edifice in the mid-ground. But what of the figures tramping from left to right; who might they be? Farm labourers? they appear to be carrying bundles, or hoppers of something. Perhaps the single feature in this composition that draws my attention the most is the youngster in the foreground, who looks like he may be running toward the cluster of individuals on their obscure mission.
It's quite dramatic, almost chiaroscuro-like in its striking use of dark and light, which suggests some skill in development. Last year I shot off two rolls of black and white film on my dad's old Nikon SLR. Between buying the film and developing it, it came to almost 50 quid. I'd envisioned coming out with some dramatic, 'arty' shots of my Greek holiday and Notting Hill Carnival, but instead, (what I presume to be) Snappy Snaps lacklustre treatment rendered them weedy, grey, and lacking in tone – which leads me to deduce that half the skill of analogue photography is in the deprecated alchemy of the darkroom.
Aside from its visual impact, it also has a haunting quality. They possess a strange gravitas, these anonymous photographic fragments that you chance upon in junk shops and jumble sales, perhaps as much as anything because they are fragile, physical artifacts. We now live in an era of super-abbundant amateur digital photography, whose ready accessibility (for better or worse) on websites such as Flickr, relegates the need for the tangible printed object to the odd wedding album, desktop photo of loved one or pet, or snapshot of significant event. I personally have never had a digital photograph professionally developed.
Looking at this photo now, one of the things that strikes me is the possibility that this single, slightly battered image, is possibly the only one of its kind remaining – the negatives presumably long gone by now – which in some ways would make it an oddly special thing, given that photographs do have the capacity to be replicated indefinitely. Or does it in fact have sister prints, languishing in drawers and shoeboxes around London? I guess I'll never know, either way.*
*I suppose there's always the third possibility that this is quite a famous, commonly reproduced image, in which case I'll feel pretty silly.